Startup Survival Guide: How to Thrive Early Startup Development

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by Vladimir Shachnev
Oqtacore Content Lead

This guide offers insights and strategies to help your early startup team excel, ensuring your business not only survives but thrives. Dive in as we explore practical tips for startup success.

Tackling the Pitfall of Misestimated Development Tasks

A common stumbling block for early-stage startups is the misestimation of development tasks. A precise assessment of timelines and budgets is pivotal for navigating this challenge. Detailed requirements and prioritization become indispensable, particularly for startups in their infancy.

Estimating tasks is seldom a favorite activity among teams, yet embarking on development without clear, measurable objectives and concrete requirements is a venture into futility. Founders’ enthusiasm for rapid deployment often leads to initiating projects on the basis of a single, under-defined feature. This, coupled with constrained resources, may result in choosing cost-effective but potentially less reliable development contractors, billing by the hour.

This strategy holds water when a startup is guided by an experienced CTO, who ensures strict adherence to timelines and quality standards. Without such oversight, the development team, especially if paid hourly, might prolong feature implementation indefinitely, posing a severe risk to the startup’s viability.

Adding more developers to the team doesn’t necessarily translate to improved quality. Founders should first articulate the project’s architecture, its objectives, scalability, and problem-solving capabilities. Our experience suggests that engaging consultants for specific challenges outside our expertise has been beneficial.

To mitigate financial losses, founders must delineate at least the foundational requirements of the project. This blueprint should outline the startup’s vision, key features, implementation sequence, and the structural and operational goals (e.g., choosing between a monolithic or microservices architecture, integration with other services). This groundwork facilitates a smoother dialogue with the development team, clarifying expectations right from the outset.

Mastering Developer Recruitment for Startups

The challenge of assembling a development team is a critical test for startups, especially following their initial round of investment. Finding adept developers swiftly is a complex task that goes beyond just offering competitive salaries. It’s about communicating a compelling vision and mission that motivates employees for the long haul.

Building a Magnetic Employer Brand

Attracting top talent is not solely about the financial package; it’s about establishing a strong presence in niche communities and on social media platforms where potential candidates are active. Actively promoting the startup’s culture and opportunities to job seekers is crucial. However, developing a distinguished HR brand is a process that requires a considerable investment of time and resources. For startups confronting immediate and sophisticated development needs, outsourcing emerges as an efficient strategy.

Strategic Recruitment Aligning with Technological Demands

The approach to recruiting developers should be tailored to the startup’s specific technological requirements. Ventures focusing on advanced technologies like AI or blockchain necessitate specialized coding expertise from the outset. Recognizing that in-house development is not always a swift or cost-effective option is crucial. In some cases, outsourcing from the beginning is a prudent decision, as in-house development, despite its advantages, can introduce prohibitive costs and delays.

Selecting the Ideal Development Partner

The choice of an outsourcing partner should be made with care, favoring companies with a proven track record in the startup’s domain. While specialists may demand a premium, their experience and insights from previous projects can be invaluable, often pre-empting common pitfalls. Startups are faced with a choice between emphasizing code quality, which takes time, and opting for speed with a less meticulous approach to code integrity. The balance between these options depends on the startup’s resources and the urgency of deploying new features.

Optimizing the Development Team Structure

Establishing a development team that can navigate the complexities of startup projects requires patience and strategic planning. A lean, efficient team capable of addressing both the detailed aspects of feature implementation and swiftly resolving unforeseen issues is indispensable. It becomes evident that having a team ready to tackle challenges proactively, without resorting to a defeatist attitude, is crucial for maintaining momentum and innovation.

Lack of Experience and Synchronization in Startups

In the initial phases of a startup, budget constraints often lead to the hiring of developers with limited experience. These individuals, while eager, may lack familiarity with coding standards, the execution of technical documentation, and other professional nuances. This can introduce significant risks to the development quality and overall project trajectory. To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to not only focus on securing investment but also to ensure that leadership, especially the CTO, engages more with management rather than daily coding tasks. The shift away from micromanagement allows for a broader strategic focus, crucial for project success.

Experts argue that the allure for seasoned professionals to join a startup often hinges on the unique opportunities these environments provide. These include the ability to impart hard-earned wisdom, the satisfaction of seeing immediate results from their work, and the potential for substantial financial gain through equity. Such incentives can be key to attracting the talent necessary to overcome early technical hurdles.

Strategies for Building a Cohesive Team

Synchronizing a team is critical for a startup’s survival. Initial hires must be aligned with the startup’s goals, encouraging a culture where learning and problem-solving are prioritized. Establishing goals collaboratively, from the bottom up, fosters a sense of ownership and understanding of each individual’s impact on the startup’s growth. Defining clear metrics for these goals is also vital for tracking progress and ensuring accountability.

Feedback loops and the ability to quickly adapt are indispensable advantages of startups. Encouraging a proactive, solution-oriented mindset among team members can significantly enhance their long-term motivation and commitment to the project’s success.

Adapting to Development Challenges

Startups face numerous challenges in maintaining a productive development process, particularly when leadership lacks management experience. The integration of new hires into the team and ensuring they grasp the larger vision can be fraught with difficulty if not handled correctly. While methodologies like SCRUM provide a framework for organization, they may not always be the best fit for every startup. Experimentation with bespoke organizational methods can yield better results, tailored to the specific needs and culture of the team.

To bolster development efforts and navigate through common pitfalls, seeking advice from seasoned professionals who have navigated similar challenges can be invaluable. Whether through consultations or establishing an advisory role, leveraging external expertise can accelerate development and enhance process efficiency. In exchange, startups often offer advisors equity, recognizing their contribution to the startup’s growth.

No Technical Documentation in Startup Development

In the bustling environment of a growing startup, technical documentation often takes a backseat. Yet, neglecting this aspect can severely impede development in the long run. When documentation is outdated or lacks accuracy, it signals a deeper issue within the team’s approach to quality assurance and process management. Without stringent requirements for project artifacts, startups risk veering off course, struggling to achieve meaningful development milestones.

During periods of rapid growth, the luxury of time to craft detailed documentation is rare, leading to instances where it may be incomplete or altogether absent. Relying on a monolithic architecture exacerbates this issue, as the entire team’s work hinges on a unified data model, often bottlenecked by a few key personnel. Drawing from experience, one can see that enhancing the quality of technical documentation can dramatically accelerate development pace.

Building a Foundation with Essential Documentation

For startups navigating the early stages, compiling comprehensive documentation is a daunting task, particularly when faced with frequent code updates. However, aiming for a moderate level of detail can provide a foundational understanding for all team members. Startups might consider beginning with:

  • A thorough project and architecture overview.
  • A developer agreement outlining the development process.
  • User documentation to guide end-users.
  • Detailed code descriptions alongside API documentation.
  • An inventory of functions and their respective roles.

It’s paramount that the task of drafting technical documentation does not overshadow the individual’s primary duties. Expecting a dedicated team for documentation in the early stages is unrealistic and impractical. Instead, integrating documentation as a shared responsibility or part of the development cycle can ensure that it receives the attention it deserves without draining vital resources.

Tech Debt: A Strategy for Sustained Startup Growth

Tech debt looms as a formidable barrier to the agility and scalability of early-stage startups. Recognizing and managing this debt is paramount for maintaining development momentum and ensuring long-term viability.

The Impact of Tech Debt on Team Dynamics

The presence of significant tech debt can strain relationships within the development team, affecting both the startup’s growth and the well-being of its members. An overburdened codebase can lead to frustration, impacting the overall team dynamics and slowing down progress. By acknowledging and addressing tech debt, startups can improve not only their technological foundation but also the morale and productivity of their teams.

Understanding the Accumulation of Tech Debt

Tech debt accumulates through quick-fix solutions that disregard established best practices. Over time, this results in a tangled codebase that hampers scalability and complicates the introduction of new features. The presence of tech debt not only slows down feature development but can also deteriorate the team’s morale, as developers find themselves constantly patching up previous inadequacies rather than pushing forward with innovative solutions.

Strategic Approaches to Reducing Tech Debt

Reducing tech debt requires a multifaceted strategy that balances innovation with maintenance. Here are key steps startups can take to manage tech debt effectively:

  • Allocate Specific Time for Maintenance: Dedicate regular intervals solely to addressing and resolving issues stemming from tech debt. This involves striking a careful balance between advancing new features and refining existing code. Setting clear deadlines for these maintenance periods encourages regular code optimization efforts.
  • Emphasize Code Quality: Foster a culture that prioritizes quality from the outset. Encourage the adoption of coding standards and regular code reviews to prevent the need for extensive rewriting. Implementing a well-documented coding guide and establishing regular code review practices can help maintain high standards.
  • Regular Refactoring: Engage in ongoing refactoring activities to ensure the codebase remains clean and manageable. This should be a continuous effort rather than sporadic overhauls, preventing the buildup of unmanageable debt. However, it’s crucial to balance refactoring with the need to deliver new functionalities to avoid stagnation.
  • Transparent Reporting of Tech Debt: Cultivate an environment where the impact of tech debt is openly discussed among team members and stakeholders. Understanding the implications of tech debt across the organization fosters a collective responsibility to address and mitigate these issues proactively.

Insights from the OQTACORE Team: What We Recommend to Startup Teams

In the whirlwind pace of a startup’s early stages, the art and science of task estimation stand as crucial pillars for the development team’s success. Understanding the intricacies of each task, setting aside dedicated analysis time, and incorporating provisions for self-testing, release, and debugging are fundamental practices that pave the way for effective project execution.

Empowering the Development Team

Clear and detailed task guidelines from the CTO, coupled with the autonomy for developers to navigate their challenges, foster an environment of rapid learning and adaptation. This empowerment enables the team to swiftly correct mistakes, an invaluable asset in the fast-evolving startup ecosystem.

Adhering to Foundational Principles

From day one, defining clear project requirements, including key features, implementation sequences, and overarching goals, is imperative. This foundation not only guides the startup’s trajectory but also ensures all team members are aligned with the vision and objectives. Engaging with seasoned developers or teams, particularly those with a track record of navigating similar projects, can offer invaluable insights and direction.

Prioritizing Technical Documentation and Tech Debt

The significance of maintaining robust technical documentation cannot be overstated. It serves as a roadmap, clarifying project specifics and enabling new team members to quickly come up to speed. Concurrently, addressing tech debt through regular code refactoring is essential to prevent it from undermining the startup’s agility and scalability.

Exploring External Expertise for Startup Success

For startups poised to accelerate their journey from concept to market-ready product, partnering with a development team that offers a blend of experience, agility, and technical prowess can be transformative. As an example, Oqtacore, a team renowned for its dedication to startup success, presents a compelling opportunity for those seeking to navigate the complexities of early-stage development.

Why Oqtacore?

Oqtacore stands out as a beacon for startups, offering to bring your minimum viable product (MVP) to life within 1-3 months, with investment ranges from $10K to $50K. This proposition is underpinned by a track record of over 50 successful projects, each a testament to Oqtacore’s commitment to quality, innovation, and client satisfaction. By entrusting your project to Oqtacore, you not only expedite your development process but also align with a team that’s inherently vested in your success, offering tailored solutions that resonate with your unique vision and objectives.

Are you interested in developing your startup? On our website you will find a handy calculator that will help you in estimating the costs of your startup. You can also schedule a demo and a consultation right away. It’s free.

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In conclusion, the journey of a startup is fraught with challenges, yet filled with opportunities for innovation and growth. By embedding thorough task estimation, empowering developers, maintaining clear documentation, and managing tech debt from the outset, startups can navigate the complexities of development with confidence. These practices not only streamline processes but also cultivate a culture of quality, resilience, and continuous improvement, propelling the startup towards its strategic goals.


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